Reportback from the NYC Anarchist Bookfair

I made a quick trip from Chicago to New York last weekend for the New York Anarchist Bookfair held at La Plaza Cultural on Saturday, Oct. 2, which also happened to be my birthday, so it was the perfect time to revisit a city I hadn’t seen in five years.

The event was outside in a lovely park, and the weather was sunny and warm – probably the best weekend New York will see for a while. Unlike recent bookfairs in Montreal and Portland, this one did not specify on its web site that face masks were recommended, and I don’t recall seeing more than a handful of people wearing them (certainly not me), even though the city authorities are imposing a vaccine/mask mandate on many public and private venues.

It was a fairly small gathering, with somewhere between one and two dozen tables – among them AK Press, Autonomedia, PM Press, Viscera (founded by someone who had interned at Little Black Cart), Bluestocking, the Anarchist Library Project, the IWW, and a group called the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC). My apologies to any group I’ve left off the list, but the event was a few days ago, and I didn’t take any notes. The event seemed to have been sponsored by, or at least coordinated with, the Museum of Reclaimaed Urban Space, which was just about a block from the park.

The selection of literature from the various tables was about what one would expect, ranging from the anarchist classics to radical feminism, anti-fascism, anti-racism, environmental, queer (if that is still an acceptable term), insurrectionist, nihilist communist, egoist. I picked up a few things, and would have gotten more, if I hadn’t had to plan for packing them all into my one small suitcase for the return trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the movies being shown in Tompkins Square Park that night, since I couldn’t turn down a dinner invitation from my sister. I flew out the next day, and I had no interest in the online “events” being held on Oct. 3; I wanted face-to-face, real life contact with fellow anarchists.

Daily life outside of the book fair seemed to go on pretty much as usual, both before and after; but while it may not have been a harbinger of the coming revolution, it did provide a welcome opportunity for a group of people to commune briefly with others who share some of their core personal and political values. My only disappointment (although not surprise) was that there seemed to be little, if any, literature or even discussion at La Plaza Cultural that day dealing with what is currently one of the most visible, pressing, and urgent situations facing anyone in NYC of an anti-authoritarian bent – the relentless pressure from city officials to cajole or coerce all citizens and visitors to conform to a “new normal” of ubiquitous mask-wearing, medical ID cards or apps (to be produced on demand) to prove one’s vaccination status, and constant anxiety stoked by a non-stop fear campaign.

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